New Year, Same Dangers: Mayor Adams Has Made Only a Tiny Fraction of School Streets Safer

Children navigate a hectic intersection near a school in the Bronx. Photo: Bess Adler
Children navigate a hectic intersection near a school in the Bronx. Photo: Bess Adler

In eight months in office, the Adams administration has redesigned only a small fraction of roads near New York City schools to make them safer, leaving the city’s 1.75 million children vulnerable to the high rates of car crashes and injuries endemic on the city’s school streets.

With public schools reopening Thursday — the first opening day of Mayor Adams’s term — the administration has completed just 28 street improvement projects within a quarter mile of a school, the Department of Transportation told Streetsblog. An agency spokesperson would not provide any details about those projects and could not say how much the agency spent on them. The DOT has 24 more street improvement projects underway, the spokesperson said. 

The 28 completed projects amount to roughly one for every 93 of the city’s 2,600 schools, although some schools share buildings.

The city’s relatively minor investment in street safety upgrades will do little to mitigate the threats cars pose to children walking to and from city schools, said Emily Stutts, a Brooklyn public school teacher and safe streets advocate.

“It doesn’t feel like enough,” Stutts said of the Adams administration’s limited school area redesigns. “Especially in a summer when so many people have been harmed by traffic violence, and many of them were children, it’s not enough.”

The extent of the threat to school kids was detailed in a six-month Streetsblog investigation that showed streets near schools have rates of car crashes and injuries that far exceed city averages. The danger is worse near schools where most students are poor or children of color.

Following Streetsblog’s report – which covered the years of Adams predecessor, Bill de Blasio – both Adams and DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez pledged to do more. Has the city met those promises? Here’s what city spokespeople said has been done to improve street safety around schools in the eight-plus months of the Adams administration:

  • The city and state expanded the city’s school-zone speed cameras to 24 hours a day, seven days a week — a move widely lauded by safe streets advocates.
  • The number of schools participating in the city’s open streets program will grow to 47 this fall, up from 38 in June. But those 47 will still represent only a small fraction of the 2,600 schools in the city, a rate far lower than in other major world cities, which have invested far more than New York in pedestrianizing streets near schools to protect children from traffic and pollution.
  • The mayor pledged to spend $904 million over five years to implement the city’s Streets Master Plan. And he promised to make safety improvements at 1,000 intersections this year.

The NYPD also said it plans to hire 75 to 100 additional crossing guards in September, bringing the total number of city guards to around 2,300. That’s still far short of the 3,000 guards the city had employed in 2019. And the city is continuing its preexisting safety education program, which sends DOT staffers into some 600 schools a year.

The city lauded its investment in school street safety.

“As a result of our relentless focus on data and equity, the vast majority of our street improvement projects [there have been 29 total] have been completed within a quarter mile of a school, keeping students safe whether they are traveling to school there or simply passing through,” said the City Hall spokesperson, who declined to be named. “Together, these major actions will help curb reckless driving and support safe, efficient, and sustainable transportation options — for students, families, and all New Yorkers — and we’ll always continue to explore new ideas that could move that effort forward faster.”

DOT declined Streetsblog’s request for an interview with Nina Haiman, who oversees the agency’s school street improvement projects.

Department of Education spokesman Nathaniel Styer did not answer questions from Streetsblog about safety around schools, continuing the department’s months of silence about the dangers students face outside public schools. He referred questions about the agency’s efforts to DOT.

Advocates called on more the city to do more to protect children from cars outside schools.

“To date in 2022, crashes have killed 15 kids, 2.5 times more than at this point in 2021,” Danny Harris, executive director of the advocacy group Transportation Alternatives, said in a statement. “These figures call for aggressive Vision Zero action, including building more open streets for schools. By limiting cars in front of schools, the city will reduce the threat of traffic violence against kids, caretakers, teachers, and administrators. Mayor Adams and DOT need to expand this program now to save lives across the five boroughs, especially as more than a million children head back to school.”